Cascades Women’s Volleyball Sign Six Blue-Chip Recruits

Abbotsford (Dan Kinvig) – The University of the Fraser Valley women’s volleyball program introduced its 2020 recruiting class.

The Cascades have signed six players, all from the Fraser Valley, as they prepare for their Canada West debut in the fall. Head coach Janelle Rozema is bringing in one transfer – Surrey product Grace Warkentin from Douglas College – along with five players straight from the high school ranks: Abbotsford’s Cailin Bitter, Mission’s Mo Likness, Port Coquitlam’s Emily Matsui, Coquitlam’s Alicja Hardy-Francis, and Surrey’s Ellie Sinclair.

Grace Warkentin

6’0” left side

Surrey, BC

Fraser Height Secondary / Douglas College

Warkentin joins the Cascades after two seasons with their former PACWEST rival, the Douglas Royals. In 2018-19, she was voted to the PACWEST all-rookie team and helped the Royals win PACWEST silver and earn a berth to the CCAA national championships, where they finished fifth. As a sophomore, she was one of the league’s most dangerous outside hitters, finishing 12th in kills (2.24/set) and 14th in total offence (2.56 points/set).

“Grace was really difficult to play against, and we’re excited to have her on our side of the court,” Rozema said. “She brings some depth on the outside, and we’re really excited about the previous college experience that she brings to the program. She’s also a really good leader and competitor, and knows how to motivate her teammates.”

“I chose UFV because of the great team atmosphere, and the ability and opportunity to play at the next level,” said Warkentin, who plans to study Arts at UFV.

Cailin Bitter

5’10” setter

Abbotsford, BC

Mennonite Educational Institute

Bitter, ranked No. 8 in the province among graduating high school girls volleyball players per VarsityLetters.ca, had a highly decorated prep career with Abbotsford’s MEI Eagles. In 2017, she earned first team all-star honours in leading MEI to a silver medal at the B.C. junior championships. As a senior last fall, she reprised her spot on the first all-star team at the B.C. AA senior championships, helping the Eagles to a fourth-place finish.

Bitter also excelled on the club scene, helping Elevate Volleyball Club win provincial medals in 2017 and 2018, and earning provincial all-star nods both years. She was also a member of the Team BC Select squad last summer, helping the team win bronze at the national championships.

“Cailin is a fierce competitor and an extraordinary athlete,” Rozema said. “She’s exceptionally strong – she’s broken shot-put records, and you can see that physicality in the way she delivers the ball. She can move the ball around the court seemingly effortlessly from long distances, so we’re really excited about that.”

“I chose UFV for the competitive atmosphere of the program,” said Bitter, who plans to pursue a degree in kinesiology. “I’ve always wanted to play at the U SPORTS level, and when I heard they were going up to that level, it changed my view of UFV.”

Mo Likness

6’0” right side/middle

Mission, BC

Mission Secondary

Likness checks in at No. 12 on the VarsityLetters.ca list of graduating seniors in B.C. She had an outstanding Grade 12 season with the Mission Roadrunners – she was named tournament MVP in leading her team to the Eastern Valley title last fall, and subsequently helped her squad to a seventh-place finish at the 4A provincials with a second team all-star nod. She was also a key player for Raincity Volleyball Club, helping her team win silver at last summer’s 17U club provincials.

“We like her versatility as an athlete, and we’re really excited that there are a few positions she could excel in for us,” Rozema said. “She was highly sought-after by other programs, so we’re really honoured that she’s bought into our vision here. We’re excited about her physical capabilities – she’s a real high flyer with a fast arm swing.”

“I’m excited to be a part of the first UFV women’s volleyball team in U SPORTS,” noted Likness, who will study kinesiology at UFV.

Emily Matsui

5’8” libero

Port Coquitlam, BC

Terry Fox Secondary

Matsui, No. 9 on the VarsityLetters.ca list of B.C.’s top graduating players, joins her sister Amanda – a rising fourth-year outside hitter – on the Cascades’ roster next season. She’s coming off a major knee injury, undergoing surgery to repair her ACL and meniscus in early December, and she hopes to be ready to play by September 2020.

Matsui was a three-time provincial club volleyball all-star (2017 through 2019) with the Coquitlam Ducks, and she was part of the Team B.C. program in 2018 and 2019, winning bronze at the U18 nationals last summer. A true multi-sport athlete, Matsui also played basketball, hockey and lacrosse at a high level.

“She brings some really high-level experience,” Rozema said of Matsui. “She’s an exceptional defender and a good receiver – she’s the full libero in one. Also I’m just excited to have the sister duo and the fun dynamic that brings to the group.”

“I chose UFV for the opportunity to play with my sister for the first time, and because I had such a great recruitment process with Janelle,” said Matsui, who plans to take criminology at UFV. “My goal is to reach my full potential as a volleyball player and have a good experience with the team.”

Alicja Hardy-Francis

6’3” middle

Coquitlam, BC

Pinetree Secondary

In just her third year playing volleyball, Hardy-Francis brings elite athleticism and height to the Cascades. She helped her Coquitlam Ducks earn a bronze medal at 18U club provincials last year, and she led her Pinetree Secondary squad to a 4A provincial championship berth in the fall.

“We’re really excited about Alicja and the size that she brings,” Rozema said. “She brings us closer to the Canada West benchmark in terms of size in the middle. I just think there’s a lot of raw potential and athleticism that we’re looking forward to seeing her develop. I think she’s going to have a fast incline and improve at a rapid rate because of those things.”

“I chose UFV because I really like all the girls and believe I will learn a lot from the coaches and the players,” said Hardy-Francis, who will pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree. “My goal is to become the best athlete that I can be. I believe my lack of experience drives me to continue learning and developing, which will hopefully show by the end of my time with the Cascades.”

Ellie Sinclair

6’2” middle

Surrey, BC

Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary

Sinclair gives the Cascades four of B.C.’s top 15 graduating seniors, per VarsityLetters.ca – she checks in at No. 10 overall. She had a stellar senior season with Surrey’s Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers, earning B.C. 4A all-star honours in helping her squad to a silver medal at provincials. She also had a highly decorated club volleyball career with the Raincity Rush, highlighted by five provincial medals (two gold, two silver, one bronze) and one national medal, a bronze, along with provincial all-star nods in 2018 and 2019. Sinclair was a three-year member of the Team B.C. program, joining forces with Bitter and Matsui to win bronze at nationals last summer.

“I think she’s going to bring some physicality to our side of the net, having that middle physique,” Rozema said. “She’s a really strong blocker, and her high-level experience coming from a good club and provincial team programs will help us.”

“My goal was to play U SPORTS volleyball and stay local,” said Sinclair, who will study criminology at UFV. “I’m excited to be part of a growing program, and play with some of my Team B.C. teammates.”

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